The City of Cold Lake is waiting on the Province to respond to a FOIP (Freedom of Information & Protection of Privacy) request that was filed in December. Craig Copeland, mayor for Cold Lake, says the request is in regards to the ID-349 Cold Lake Air Weapons Range (CLAWR) funding allocation and any discussions or meetings that were had leading up to what he calls, “a drastic change” in the funding structure.
Council discussed the issue at length at their March 20th Corporate Priorities meeting, said the mayor, adding that Council has directed City Administration to seek legal advice on how to proceed with the issue.
“We were asked by the NDP government to look at sharing the funding with the Town of Bonnyville and Glendon,” the mayor says the City drafted a proposal and were given no indication that the proposal would not be accepted. There was no further discussion on the matter, said Copeland, until the final funding model was revealed in November.
Funding Model Changes
There are a few issues that the Mayor is hoping full disclosure from the government will help clear up. The change in structure from the initial proposed model to the model that is being presented now, the ask from the Province to use the Town of Bonnyville to flow money to nearby Métis Settlements, and the government’s lack of consultation with the City of Cold Lake & 4-Wing Cold Lake.
The proposed model saw Cold Lake receiving 85 percent of the funding, with the Town of Bonnyville and Glendon receiving the remaining 15 percent. The Municipal District of Bonnyville would maintain $1.2 million for road maintenance. *
Under the new funding structure Cold Lake would receive $16 million, Bonnyville, $4 million, and Glendon $493,000. With a regional allocation of 20% of the funding, or $6 million. The model also allocates $1 million to Lac La Biche County and $2.2 million to the Municipal District of Bonnyville.
“What happened between the deal in August and the deal that we saw in November, for such a dramatic change?” posed Copeland.
Métis Settlement Funding through the Town of Bonnyville
Mayor Copeland pointed out an interesting item that was discovered. It had appeared that the Town of Bonnyville was asked by the Province to flow money from the Government to the Town and then to neighbouring Métis Settlements.
“Obviously, there was conversation going on between the Minister (of Municipal Affairs, Shaye Anderson) and the Town of Bonnyville,” Mayor Copeland points out that the ask to flow money through a municipality is not a typical arrangement that the Province would make and called it “unprecedented”.
In the Decemeber 13th, 2017 Town of Bonnyville Regular Council meeting there was an in-camera discussion which was followed with an approved motion to draft a Memo of Understanding to flow money from the Province to the Town and out to Elizabeth and Fishing Lake Métis Settlements.
“Obviously, there’s some monkey business going on between the Minister and the Mayor of Bonnyville,” stated Mayor Copeland.
Mayor of Bonnyville, Gene Sobolewski confirmed the Town was asked and had agreed to draft a Memo of Understanding that the Town would flow the money from the Province to the Métis Settlements. He denies any back room deals or shady business.
Sobolewski explained, “there’s difficulty with the current legislation, in terms of being able to flow funds to the Métis. The Town at that particular time said, ‘we can help out and be a flow through’. We were being proactive in helping the process along”
“Transferring of industrial taxes, to a town then over to a Métis Settlement, that’s unheard of,” Mayor Copeland said at no time had the City ever been asked to flow money to another community.
The Bonnyville mayor added, “there was nothing sinister and underhanded, this was transparent.”
The Province has since decided to use the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) funding from the ID-349 to give funding to the Métis Settlements. At this time the Province will not be using the Town to transfer the funds.
Lack of Consultation & Dialogue
“At no time has anyone from the Minister’s office or the Minister ever visited Cold Lake or attempted to understand what the Air Weapons Range money has done for our City and its sustainability,” Mayor Copeland said he’s upset at the lack of consultation between the Province and the City.
“There was no consultation with the Wing Commander. Back in 2010, the Wing Commander was an instrumental part of us securing the funding.”
The mayor added, “we have been given the cold shoulder by this government.”
“It’s going to affect the City of Cold Lake dramatically, it’s going to affect our Capital Budget in a big way,” Mayor Copeland states that the current structure of just over $16 million dollars is not enough to maintain stability.
Waiting for FOIP
“We’re supposed to work as a whole regional group, but it seems like that there’s discussions going on that don’t include the City of Cold Lake,” Copeland said he’s tied of the City getting the “shaft”.
“We’re really dishearten by what’s happened to us.”
The Province’s policy states that FOIP requests will be addressed within 30 days, however since its filing in November, the City of Cold Lake has yet to receive their request.
*The proposed funding model has been updated from the original article to reflect numbers provided by Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland.